Dell Talks Linux Virtualization Redux

Dell's CTO demonstrates that the promises he made 18 months ago are now real.

SAN FRANCISCO – Sometimes, the promises that vendors make on a show stage turn out to be empty. That's not the case with Dell. In a Tuesday afternoon keynote session at LinuxWorld, Dell CTO Kevin Kettler demonstrated the virtualization that he touted 18 months ago at LinuxWorld Boston.

During his presentation Kettler showed a slide of himself at the Boston event with a slide in the background.

"The slide in the background might look very similar," Kettler smirked. "The vision we painted is still the vision we are marching too."

Dell's CTO said his purpose in talking about Linux virtualization now is to report on the progress made over the last 18 months and to show where Dell is going.

As opposed to the 2006 demo, the 2007 demo showed a very friendly user interface which Kettler noted as a stark contrast to the harsher command line approach that he had previously demoed.

"The main point is the ability to go and create a virtual machine that is more intuitive than it was," Kettler said. "You're able to do it very cleanly and actually create the machine in very little time."

Kettler reiterated the tried and true promise of virtualization, that it can improve utilization and aid in server consolidation. He also talked about the traditional way in which virtualization is being used as a software that is loaded on top of an operating system.

Moving forward, Dell may well be pushing a different paradigm for virtualization. Kettler noted that in the Dell labs they are working on pushing virtualization into an embedded layer.

"Think of it as being part of server but not something you add on afterward," Kettler explained. "It will allow for easier provisioning and allow you to boot to a virtual machine ready state."

Kettler expects that embedded virtualization will not only improve utilization but power usage as well, since it's part of the boot process.

Drinking the Linux Kool-Aid is also something that Kettler was keen on doing while at LinuxWorld. He told the audience that Dell has over 3,000 Linux servers in its data centers.

"Not only are we a producer but we're also Dell's biggest consumer of products," Kettler explained.

While Dell currently runs a lot of its mission critical application on Linux, the Linux desktop is something that Dell is still moving toward.

"Lots of people in Dell use Linux as a corporate desktop and we're actually piloting it across the company," Kettler said. "I use Dell as a bellwether to figure out what we need to work on to figure out how to make Linux easier for end users."

As part of this keynote, Kettler announced that Dell was expanding its end user focused efforts to China with the addition of SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop for that market. Dell is also expanding its Linux for consumers in Europe by expanding its Ubuntu Linux offering from the US to the U.K., Germany and France.

Tying it all back into virtualization, Kettler argued that using virtualization takes away the barriers for Linux. With virtualization it is easier for people to try out Linux applications without risk.

Virtualization on Linux also may well represent a golden opportunity for Linux developers.

"The Linux community is poised to be innovative and creative and create virtual machine environments faster than anyone else can do today," Kettler said. "I would love for the community to really focus on virtualization as a means to deliver the true spirit of Linux creativity and a new ways to deliver software."

Moving forward Kettler noted that he envisioned clients having 8 or 9 operating system on single machine that are all virtualized, though there may well be some licensing issues that will need to be overcome for that vision to materialize.

"We need to think through the licensing to help foster this kind of compute model versus the one operating system for one machine model."

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